Into the Frying Pan

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High oleic soybean oil is put to the test

People have been frying food for more than 4,500 years, making everything from alligator to zucchini undeniably delicious. Despite the overwhelming consensus that fried foods are good for the taste buds, the U.S. population has expressed increasing concern in recent years about the potential health impacts associated with frying. With a desire to offer a variety of zero-trans-fat options on a menu full of fried favorites, two innovative restaurants recently put a new type of oil to the test in their kitchens. High oleic soybean oil provides a more healthful frying alternative that meets food service functionality needs and is sparking interest among U.S. soybean farmers because of its potential to regain market share.

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Firebirds Wood Fired Grill recently tested high oleic soybean oil on its menu, with excellent results.

Both Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, named a 2014 breakout brand by Nation’s Restaurant News, and The Inn at Virginia Tech recently participated in case studies conducted by the soy checkoff in which they tested the oil using their own menu items. They found that foods cooked in high oleic oil had a neutral flavor, high moisture content and a reduction of calories. The results were a “big nutritional win,” according to Pam Smith, a culinary nutrition consultant who conducted lab analysis of the foods tested.

“High oleic soybean oil comes from U.S. farms, and we see that as important advantage for our operation,” says Max Kiebach, director of food and beverage at The Inn at Virginia Tech University. “As a land-grant university, we appreciate that they are produced right here in U.S. soybean fields.”

“Foods cooked in high oleic soybean oil have a better food quality as far as texture, taste and color,” says Jonathan Creger, executive chef at The Inn at Virginia Tech.

Similarly, Steve Sturm, executive chef at Firebirds, notes, “We are noticing our chicken fingers fried in high oleic oil are holding less oil and more moisture, which also provides a higher quality of taste.”

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After participating in the checkoff case study, The Inn at Virginia tech has committed to moving forward with high oleic oil in its kitchens, and Firebirds is looking forward to making the switch sometime soon. As the number of companies adopting the oil increases in the near future, industry officials expect U.S. acreage of high oleic varieties to grow as well.

The soybean industry has set a goal of 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans planted by 2023 to meet projected consumer needs. As farmers who grow high oleic varieties receive an additional premium, there is a high profit potential associated with their growth.

To learn about planting high oleic soybeans and see if they are available in your area, click here.